Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Planning

I made a new friend the other night. He was 22, a student, the whole world ahead of him. He and I talked for some time about careers and education and picking a path. He was very concerned that he had to "pick something" and that he create a back-up plan just in case.

And oh how I did relate! 22 year old me was exactly the same. I have always been a planner by nature, but, as life is wont to do, my plans rarely stayed on course and being somewhat flexible has allowed my brain to stay relatively intact. So I felt compelled to tell him the secret to surviving life: you can always change your mind.

Though I could tell he believed me and even valued my input (imagine that!), he was nervous to really accept this truth. So I told him: Make your plans. Stick to them. But don't give them too much weight or let them rule you, because life rarely works out the way you intend and you can always change your mind. And if you do change your mind? Everything will be fine. If things don't work out? You won't die from it.

I am convinced this is the secret of life. How vain of me, I realize, to purport to know the secret of life. BUT, I think I'm on to something!

First, I think the dedication to a plan you choose when you're barely an adult is what causes heart attacks and resentment and depression. This isn't 1964. I don't think you have to choose one career before you even begin college, meet your life partner when you're 21, get married, buy a house, and pop out 4.5 kids, all before your thirties.

How do we think we're even emotionally smart enough to make all those life decisions at such a young age? And after we've chosen so young, we felt we had to stick with it or become pariahs. Well I call bullshit.

Life is fluid. And instead of forcing a path, I've chosen to let life find me. Sure, that hasn't always worked out in the ways I'd hoped, but I've also had some cool experiences and flexibility helps me stay somewhat positive (that is, when I'm not snarking the world to death).

I wish I'd kept better journals as a teen. Because what I wouldn't give to read you my young plans. I wanted to be married by 25 and running Vogue Magazine, all while adopting 4 kids and fighting injustice in third world countries. I had big plans.

But life never quite follows your well-laid plans.

Instead, I did all sorts of different things in all sorts of crazy orders.

I got two AAs (two AAs don't make a BA, ps). Bounced between every industry from fashion to television to event planning. I got my BA at 26. I lived abroad. I got engaged at 25 and we'd broken up before I was 26. Somewhere along the way I adopted two cats. I discovered things I loved like writing and photography and travel and food.

At some point, I figured out I preferred the things I loved to a solid paycheck. I fell in love. Had my heart broken. Met new people. Made new friends. Left others behind. Started cutting out those in my life who were toxic. Made huge, scary changes. Made huge, scary moves. Surprised people. Showed my loyalty and reliability to others.

Life can change drastically in a single moment. And the only way to live, I think, is to change with it. What seemed like a brilliant plan when I was 22 now seems slightly naive to me. But there are things I'm glad I went for back then because each step led to where I am today.

Recently,  my friend Sonja asked me if I saw myself staying in Portland forever (Or something to that effect. I'd had some wine. Shut up.). I replied, "I don't know." I don't know not because I don't like it here or because I don't think I could be happy here for some time. But because I honestly don't know what the future holds. I don't know where life will take me. Maybe it will take me to Seattle or the east coast or Europe or South East Asia or maybe just to the other side of the city.

I don't know and I'm okay that I don't know. Somewhere in the last 12 years I stopped making strident plans. I still make goals. But the fluidity of those goals astounds even me. Hardly a thing has worked out like I planned at 18 or 20 or 22, but I've learned so much and grown so much. All, I think, due to being flexible with each curve ball thrown my way (would you look at that! a sports metaphor!).

So what am I rambling on and on about? This: make plans, but be okay with changing them. Plans help us get through the day, sure, but being able to let them go helps us get through life.

You can always change your mind.

Except with tattoos and children. Can't send those back, despite what my mother always told me.

19 comments mean you love me:

ISRAEL CARRASCO said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I related yo this on so many levels. Mainly because I have an education, and work experience but somehow I don't wake up everyday saying,"this is what I was meant to do." I know that having depression can be a contributing factor to feeling this way. Anyway, hope you fing what u are looking for.

Lifebeginsat30ty said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is my exact philosophy! I was married at 25 and had a house to boot. Sometimes the things you thought you wanted at that age aren't the things you wanted at all! What do they always say? Life is what happens when you're making other plans :)

Nush said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Your advice to your friend are so right.

Somehow plans in life seem to be too fluid to stick, like teflon.

I have a degree in Sociology and one in Tourism Mgment (don't ask) and I wanted to live in a warm country. I ended up working in IT sales and now in IT Operations and I live in Ireland for the last 11 years. It is weird how things turn out.

Do have tattoos and no, can't give them back. Not that I want to either. :D

Oilfield Trash said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You got me thinking about how I wanted to take over the world at 17.

The Barreness said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hence, no kiddos for this girl.

Also, I would totally get a tat, but I am too damned indecisive to chose the artwork.

Also, I'm nearly at the age where I will begin to lose the battle with gravity.

And nobody likes a sagging, misshapen tatoo.

- B x

Brandy Wilcoxen said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thats really good advice. I completely agree.

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I totally agree. I'm kinda in limbo at the moment: secure with an advanced degree but no job (but tons of rejection letters! Yay, economy!). But I like to stay positive. Perhaps I'm not meant to have the job I think I should have. And in all of this crazy free time I've started writing again, reconnected with friends and family, and have taken the time to travel and do some things that I wouldn't have otherwise (like planning a trip to FL to see a shuttle take-off, or taking a hot air balloon ride over the city).

So sometimes I feel pathetic that I'm nearly 26 and have no job, no boyfriend, and that my goals are being thrown in my face with every rejection letter I receive. But I am free to be my own person. And that has opened a well of possibilities. And I'm totally grasping them.

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

LOVED reading this! So funny, life is a journey not a destination!!! (But I do hope you stay in Portland for a bit!!!!)

These things I know for sure in my life:

-I love Portland :)
-I love my kids :)
-I am definately going to change my tattoo!!!!

meleah rebeccah said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a fantastic post. When I was 22 I thought I had everything figured out too. Now, at 36 years old, I know two things:

1. tomorrow is promised to no one so live every day like it's your last

2. I dont know anything about anything!

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Israel- forget your plans and just be happy. :)

Life- one of my fave quotes!

Nush- exactly! and I love all my tats, though I do want to change one a bit.

OT- so I guess that didn't happen.

Barrenness- hah! no they don't. I love all my tats. can't wait for another.

Brandy- I love it when folks agree with me. ;)

Colleen- even 26 is still young. we have out whole lives and you have so much time. you're not pathetic! you're just waiting for the next step.

Anon (aka Sonja)- YES! <3

meleah- YES and YES! I totes agree.

Lindsey said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I particularly love this one because it's so true. I find my life plans going in circles, not working out the way I expected, but still experiencing things I love. That's the exciting part of life. :-)

Skye said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This post made me feel a little better about myself. I chose a college major because I liked it (linguistics) and literally did not think about a future career until the day of graduation. Then I realized there is no career in linguistics that doesn't require a master's degree (I looked). To this day I hate myself just a little bit for never even considering what I wanted to do and how I would make money when I took on $30k in student loan debt to study something I would not pursue. Now I'm going back to school part-time to get my teaching certificate- which I could have gotten with my undergraduate degree for no extra money. Ugh!!! But- you are right, I am young and I loved college and my experience wasn't worthless and who knows, I might have changed my mind if I'd decided what I wanted at 17 anyway!

Bitter Betty said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

No matter what you do life is always full or coulda, shoulda, woulda's. But it should never be filled with regrets!

Nichole said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You are far too young to be so wise.
Beautiful and eloquent post.
So lovely.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

SO SO SO true.

Also? I just liked you on Facebook, so I think that makes us official Internet friends!

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Lindsey- TOTALLY! thanks much <3

Skye- yes! you just never know. so just roll with it, baby. hee!

BB- as always, you are so right, my friend!

Nichole- oh what a lovely compliment! thanks so much, my dear. <3

Megan- thanks! and yes, yes I believe it does. :)

Dawn said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Every night I tell myself that I want to live so that my headstone reads, "She loved much and regretted little." My life bears no resemblance to the life I pictured as a child, teen, or young adult. And I'm ok with that.

alonewithcats said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

It's amazing how much we learn – or learn to accept? – between our early 20s and early 30s.

Andygirl said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

woman, you said it! <3

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